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Wall Street sets record closing highs on stimulus hopes



Wall Street sets record closing highs on stimulus hopes

Wall Street advanced on Monday, setting a course for record closing highs as stimulus prospects and ongoing vaccine deployment boosted investor optimism over the pace of economic recovery from the pandemic recession.

All three major US stock indexes were higher, with the S&P 500 and the Dow on track for their sixth consecutive gains, their longest winning streak since August. Small-caps, often seen as “re-opening plays,” outperformed their larger peers.

“The market is looking forward six months to a year and believing we’re going to be largely past the coronavirus issue and the economy will be reopened,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth in Fairfield, Connecticut. “That gives people conviction and reason to buy the market.

“The fear of not participating is having some folks throw in the towel despite worries that the market is overvalued and overbought,” he added.

Oil prices rose to their highest in over a year due to supply cuts and hopes for a stimulus-driven demand rebound, helping energy stocks jump 4.2 percent.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said if Congress approves the president’s $1.9 trillion fiscal aid package, the United States could return to full employment next year.

That package came closer to passage on Friday when lawmakers approved a budget outline that would enable them to muscle it through Congress without Republican support.

Vaccine deployment pushes ahead in United States with at least 32,780,860 doses administered so far, and new infections trending lower, on average.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 132.2 points, or 0.42 percent, to 31,280.44, the S&P 500 gained 13.29 points, or 0.34 percent, to 3,900.12 and the Nasdaq Composite added 69.19 points, or 0.5 percent, to 13,925.49.

Of the 11 major sectors in the S&P 500, six were green, with energy stocks enjoying the largest percentage gain.

Fourth-quarter reporting season has passed the halfway mark, with 294 of the companies in the S&P 500 having reported. Of those, 83 percent have beaten consensus estimates, according to Refinitiv.

Analysts see aggregate fourth-quarter S&P earnings posting a year-on-year gain of 2.4 percent, a stark reversal from the 10.3 percent annual decline seen at the beginning of the year, per Refinitiv.

Walt Disney, Cisco Systems and General Motors were up between 1.5 percent and 4.3 percent ahead of their earnings reports this week.

Bitcoin touched a record high after Tesla announced it had invested around $1.5 billion in the cryptocurrency and would begin accepting payment in bitcoin for its cars and other products.

“The average institutional investor is shaking their head,” Pavlik said. “For these folks who are believers in crypto currency, it gives them another layer of support that crypto is the future.”

Tesla shares inched up 0.6 percent, while cryptocurrency miners Riot Blockchain and Marathon Patent Group surged 33 percent and 35.1 percent, respectively.

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Robinhood exec wants users to stop worrying about its business model




Robinhood exec wants users to stop worrying about its business model

Beleaguered no-fee trading app Robinhood is now turning to its chief operating officer to help quell backlash over its response to the “Reddit rally” in January.

In a Thursday blog post, Robinhood COO Jim Swartwout vowed to “demystify” the company’s controversial practice of selling order flow to Wall Street.

Swartwout, a 50-year-old former executive at online brokerages E*Trade and TDAmeritrade, told users that selling order flow to market makers is the only way it can offer its product for free. Robinhood, he said, only makes “two-tenths of a penny” for every share bought and sold on the platform.

“To compete with exchanges, market makers offer us rebates,” Swartwout said. “Market makers typically give you better prices than exchanges.”

The business model has become a PR albatross for the trading platform ever since its controversial decision in late January to bar users from buying shares of popular stock like GameStop.

It’s raised the eyebrows of politicians, who pressed Robinhood chief Vlad Tenev and Citadel CEO Ken Griffin on best execution during a Congressional hearing on Feb 18. Citadel pays Robinhood for its order flow.

Critics have also attacked the app’s “gamification” of trading via an interface that drops virtual confetti and balloons across screens to encourage trading.

Even prior to the latest controversy, Robinhood has come under scrutiny by regulators who fined the company in 2019 for failing to get its customers what is called “best execution” on their trades.

But Swartwout on Thursday insisted this is the golden age for traders.

“It’s easy to see why there’s no better time to be a retail investor,” he writes.

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Lenders mull plan to take Hertz public post-bankruptcy




Lenders mull plan to take Hertz public post-bankruptcy

There’s a battle brewing over Hertz that could determine whether the car rental company — and original “meme stock” — remains a publicly traded company, The Post has learned.

Hertz on Tuesday proposed exiting bankruptcy by putting a group of new investors in the driver’s seat, including Knighthead Capital Management, Certares Opportunities and Larry Fink’s Blackrock.

The investors have offered to spend between $2.3 billion and $4.2 billion for a controlling stake in Hertz, which would be privately held.

But Hertz’s unsecured lenders, a group that includes JPMorgan, Fidelity and hedge fund Pentwater Capital, are considering slamming the brakes on that plan in favor of their own proposal to pull the company out of bankruptcy via an initial public offering, sources said.

The IPO plan, which has been submitted to Hertz but not yet to the bankruptcy court, calls for the unsecured lenders to convert their debt to stock and then “immediately list” the company on an exchange, a source close to the lenders told The Post.

“I think the process to sell the company has really just begun,” this person said. “Our group controls the vote. Anyone wanting to buy Hertz has to kiss our ring.”

Indeed, the unsecured lenders, a group that also includes Bank of America and Marathon Asset Management and AllianceBernstein, own more than 60 percent of the company’s $4.6 billion in corporate debt, which sources say could make it hard for the Delaware court bankruptcy judge to approve a sale over their objections.

The lenders plan to push their IPO plan to judge unless the Knighthead deal is sweetened. It currently values Hertz’s unsecured loans at around 70 cents on the dollar while making first- and second-lien lenders whole.

Plans for a post-bankruptcy Hertz IPO comes as small investors clamor to buy small cap stocks popular on trading forums like Reddit’s WallStreetBets, or so-called “meme stocks.” In fact, Hertz was one of the first stocks to benefit from chatter on Reddit after its sales got crushed by pandemic lockdowns — resulting in a buying frenzy that sent shares of the bankrupt company as high as $5.53 a share last year.

Of course, current shareholders will be wiped out regardless of which plan wins the day, an outcome that is reflected in Hertz’s stock price of 87 cents a share.

The new investors looking to buy Hertz have been calling junior lenders individually in an effort to come to an agreement, sources said. But skeptical lenders have only to point to rival car maker Avis, which has doubled in price since October amid growing expectations that travel will rebound as people get vaccinated against Covid-19, sources added.

On Wednesday, the Hertz rival closed at a six-year high of $60.85 a share.

“The price looks cheap relative to Avis,” agreed Jefferies analyst Hamzah Mazari of the Knighthead deal, which values Hertz at just 6.5 times its pre-pandemic earnings.

Avis, by contrast, is trading at 8.6 times is pre-Covid earnings. And Hertz on Tuesday estimated that revenue will rise from nearly $6.1 billion this year to $8.6 billion in 2023 as more people get vaccinated.

“They are trying to steal the company,” one junior lender source griped told The Post. “This seems value destructive. Imagine if a public company took an offer 14 percent below the trading price?”

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NY Times slammed for seeking opinion editor with ‘spine of steel’




NY Times slammed for seeking opinion editor with 'spine of steel'

The New York Times is catching heat over a new job posting that seeks an opinion editor with a “spine of steel” — fresh on the heels of the paper losing three staffers who published controversial columns.

The Gray Lady posted a job ad Wednesday for a deputy opinion editor to help oversee a desk that’s been mired in controversy for much of the past year.

“We’re looking for an editor with a sense of humor and a spine of steel, a confident point of view and an open mind, an appetite for risk and exacting standards for excellence in writing and visual presentation,” the posting reads.

Commentators and journalists slammed the ad’s phrasing on Twitter, suggesting it smelled of hypocrisy following last year’s departures of editorial page editor James Bennet, editorial assistant Adam Rubenstein and columnist Bari Weiss.

“Essentially a complete list of characteristics NOT welcome among Times editors,” tweeted Dan McLaughlin, a senior writer at the right-leaning National Review.

“Someone who fits this description wouldn’t last a day at the @nytimes,” wrote Joe Walsh, a conservative radio host and former Republican congressman.

Newsweek deputy opinion editor Batya Ungar-Sargon took issue with the want ad’s claim that the Times’ opinion team “aims to promote the most important and provocative debate across a range of subjects.”

“The NYT literally fired James Bennet for doing this exact thing,” Ungar-Sargon tweeted. “It outed Adam Rubenstein and tossed him to the wolves for doing this exact thing. It allowed Bari Weiss to be bullied out of the newsroom for doing this exact thing. Just totally shameless.”

Bennet stepped down last June after the Times published an op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) arguing that then-President Donald Trump should deploy the military to quell the Black Lives Matter protests that were sweeping the nation.

The piece, titled “Send In The Troops,” sparked a public protest among Times staffers, many of whom tweeted, “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.” Bennet initially defended the piece, arguing the Times owed it to its readers “to show them counter-arguments,” but later apologized and admitted he didn’t read the article.

Weiss left the Gray Lady about a month later with a scathing resignation letter accusing her colleagues of engaging in a “new McCarthyism” and claiming Twitter had become the paper’s “ultimate editor.”

And Rubenstein, the editorial assistant who edited Cotton’s op-ed, resigned in December, some six months after the initial controversy, according to the Daily Beast.

Spokespeople for the Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

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